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Nashua set to debate proposed budget at public hearing Monday night

Union Leader Correspondent

June 02. 2013 6:31PM

NASHUA — Residents will have ample opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns on the mayor’s proposed budget tonight during the first public hearing on the $236 million spending plan.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Nashua High School South, at which time citizens who wish to speak will have the chance to comment on the recommended fiscal year 2014 budget.

The aldermanic Budget Review Committee has spent the past two weeks analyzing each portion of the budget, and will now seek public comment before making adjustments to the spending plan later this week.

“The thing that concerns me is that I like to go through everything and understand everything,” said Alderman-at-Large David Deane, referring to several lengthy budget meetings last week that had numerous agenda items.

Deane said that in the future he would prefer to have shorter agendas with additional meetings, if necessary, so that city officials are not trying to cram so many items into a three- or four-hour meeting.

According to Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, there will be three Budget Review Committee wrap-up sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Each of those meetings will begin at 7 p.m. at Nashua City Hall.

Since the mayor unveiled her proposed budget last month, several aldermen have criticized recommended pay increases for select city employees.

Last week, Alderman Dan Moriarty, Ward 9, voiced concerns about significant wage hikes for the city’s merit employees.

“I’ll encourage that the mayor come to the Board of Aldermen and submit legislation asking us to override the charter and step schedule to cut the merit employee pay raises in half from 3 percent to 1.5 percent,” said Moriarty.

Moriarty said he is looking for uniformity in pay structures between union contracts and merit contracts.

He said that for the past two years, teachers have not received any step or pay increases, but instead received a $750 bonus. He added that firefighters receive step increases just once every five years, at which time they are granted a 1 percent pay raise.

Furthermore, Moriarty said the staff at the Nashua Public Library has eliminated its step increases entirely.

Lozeau’s proposed operating budget of $236,048,064 is about $5.3 million more than the existing budget of about $230 million, which represents an increase of 2.3 percent.

Lozeau said earlier that more than half of the 2.3 percent increase is attributed to a hike in New Hampshire Retirement System pension costs of about $3.7 million.

If approved by city officials, the $236 million budget would result in a less than 3 percent tax increase for local residents, according to the mayor. Last year’s tax increase was nearly 2.5 percent, she said.

According to John Griffin, chief financial officer, about 75 percent of the city’s operating budget — or $177 million — accounts for employee salaries and benefits. The city currently employs more than 2,800 workers.

The mayor’s proposed spending plan is about $343,000 below the city’s spending cap. The city’s current assessed value is about $8.4 billion, compared to around $9.5 billion when the mayor took office a few years ago.

Aldermen have until Aug. 1 to approve the budget, but the mayor is hoping it will be adopted before the fiscal year begins on July 1.

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